special needs

House Rules and Can a Book Change Your Life?

How can a book change your life? Well beyond the actual reading part, the educational value and the entertainment we all get from reading a book, some would argue that books can change your life. I recall having this conversation in a newsroom in a mid-sized paper where I once worked as a daily news reporter back in the mid-90s when The Celestine Prophecy was hot news and people were jumping on that bandwagon. Myself and an unnamed entertainment reporter were arguing over whether a book could change your life or not. He felt they could. I took the opposite stance. I am a person who believes life changes your life, not books. That said, I love to read and I love to write and I love to blog and boy oh boy do I love books. So do the people over at Everything Mom (http://www.everythingmom.com/)
Everything Mom  is a great site for Moms and bloggers. They have amazing contests, forums and also a national book club. So, as a national book club influencer I agreed to discuss House Rules by Jodi Picoult (Simon and Schuster in Canada). This is not a review. I reviewed this one many months ago over at my book site (http://www.thriftymommasbrainfood.blogspot.com/) This book club is meant to explore the way we experience the book and feelings about it. Things like that. Interesting, huh? I have read this book twice and this is one of my absolute favourite authors of all time. She inspires me to read and to write and, with this book, which deals with a single Mom raising two sons, one of whom has a disability called Asperger’s, a high functioning form of autism, she inspires me as a writer to research well and to get the details right. I love that about Jodi Picoult. Her research is meticulous and her novels are ripped from the headlines tales that somehow each time manage to carve out and explore some new facet of the human heart. Sometimes she throws a twist into the plot of her stories that is so unexpected I am left with my mouth hanging open literally. House Rules is a book I hold close to my heart because I have a child with special needs and the family dynamic here in my home often resembles that which Jodi Picoult recreates on paper in this excellent novel. I love that she got that right. I love that she perhaps inspires readers to peek behind the curtain here at a life that is not normal, but different. I love too that she spoke with people and youth who have sensory issues and diagnoses that are very similar to the one my daughter has and in doing so this book gives me small and important glimpses into what it must feel like to be my daughter, Ainsley who is now six. This was a highlight of House Rules. Picoult actually talked to youth with Asperger’s and the ones who related their life experience to her did an amazing job. I am left in awe and I am also enlightened and challenged to remember to view the world from many angles and to ask myself some days what must that look like to my daughter? I sure empathized with the main character’s Mom Emma. Her world looks a lot like mine. Sadly, invisible disabilities like Asperger’s are really tricky as there is no visual cue for the rest of the world to see it. Assumptions are made when a child rages or runs away or acts impulsively in public and, where the difference or special need is not framed properly, it often appears to outsiders as bad behaviour. Or it’s bad parenting or a weird kid. Jacob speaks in movie clips. He bolts when overwhelmed. So does my daughter. My daughter often reenacts scripts of movies and TV shows out of the blue. If you don’t know her you might think her offensive when she blurts a really sarcastic speech she once heard from Hannah Montana and storms out of the room. Kids who clap their hands over their ears during the national anthem look like they’re being rude, unless you know that they have sensory integration dysfunction as a result of their other disabilities and the sound of the anthem is 100 times louder for them than it is for the child beside them. Essentially noise hurts. On a good day I am Ainsley’s translator to the world. This is Emma’s life. It closely mimmicks ours here at thriftymomma’s house. Picoult so beautifully gets the details of the sibling relationship here between Jacob and Theo. Theo is the typically functioning child who lives in the brother’s shadow and frankly often gets lost because his Mom is so busy managing Jacob’s behaviour and his disability. Same for my oldest daughter and pretty much any sibling of a child with special needs. This book just gets all the angles right. I am often inspired and moved and challenged to grow as an author because of a book. I am enlightened and grateful too that an author would tackle these topics and do them so well. But I have never read a book like this or a book like an Oprah Pick that makes me say to myself: What am I doing with my life? Honestly books can take you places you never knew you wanted to go. Words can move you. No question. But can a book change your life? I don’t think so. What do you think? Have you read House Rules? What is your opinion?

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.

One Comment

  • Skees

    I don’t think a book can change your life. They can maybe help you if you are working on a specific thing in your life like being more organized, but as you said only you can change you. When it comes to our children, again I don’t think books can change their lives, but I do find that they can help to reinforce the messages we are trying to teach them.